In my pandemic distraction, I completely neglected to mention that InkQuills printed one of my flashes, “The Devil’s Ivy,” in an anthology of horror entitled Cryptid Encounters. The anthology was compiled by the wonderful Enakshi J., a poet, author, and blogger in India. Here’s her blog.
Cryptid Encounters is a collection of 13 speculative short stories “intended to scare, surprise, disgust, and startle.” Each piece has a similar conceit: a bizarre encounter and its aftermath. My included work, “The Devil’s Ivy,” draws inspiration from The Twilight Zone; the conceptual parallel of people encountering extraordinary beings with unkind motives will be obvious to fans of episodes like “To Serve Man” or “It’s a Good Life.”
Dynamic Synapse Protocol is on Amazon.
That’s how long it took to write my first novel.
And as they say, the first novel is the worst. (They should add so is the latest.) In three years, my manuscript went through multiple rewrites, a few cycles of beta readers, and now slinks in my hard drive, waiting to be deleted on accident. Or on purpose. Probably purpose.
In case you’re curious, Roco is a contemporary forest fantasy about a squirrel who goes on an adventure with a teenaged rune mage. The villains are a backwoods clan of snakes in the guise of people; their leader, called Mother, wants to slither inside the mage to take over her body and command her powers. Think Yeerks meet ancient serpent gods.
Most of the story centers on the rune mage’s escape through a swathe of forest and her burgeoning friendship with a helpful Western Gray (a relationship initiated by magic). The book culminates in a final showdown between the deuteragonists and the snakefolk, with the denouement setting up a sequel.
Mari and Roco by Mowkiii
What I earned after an endless three years was first-hand knowledge of how demoralizing writing a book can be.
Stuart J. Warren, of his-own-blog fame, wrote a book about a robot who activates in the wilderness and stumbles on an automated society. Humanity, apparently, has been wiped out completely, and this robot tries to adjust to a brave, new world of logic, code, ailing technology, and fervent racism against long-gone Creators.
My small contribution was as one of Stuart’s beta readers. Here’s the cover:
Dynamic Synapse Protocol is on Amazon.
2020 was a tough year in terms of self-motivation and sitting down to actually write (or read, or do anything beyond doomscrolling and video games). The Coronaverse was overwhelming—the unknowns, the paranoia, the deaths, the blur of weeks spent indoors.
Only now, in January 2021, am I actively seeking restoration (even though the pandemic continues to rage).
Excited to join the ranks of brilliant mentors and leaders who’ve received their first Diamond. It’s a milestone as a Speech & Debate Coach but no resting place.
The Confederate flag is a symbol of racist traitor losers who killed U.S. citizens to preserve the institution of slavery and the hierarchy of the white race over the black race.
Unfortunately, many people still attempt to preserve the cultural memory of the Confederacy— its secession, racism, and slavery—under the guise of heritage and regional pride.
This pride persists in a state flag.
Mississippi’s red, white, and blue:
On June 10th, 2020, NASCAR finally banned the Confederate flag from its events. But this led to an interesting question.
What will NASCAR do when races are held in Mississippi?
I thought it only appropriate to not put the onus on NASCAR, but the state of Mississippi, to cut ties with the Confederacy altogether.
After a quick google search, I found many, many redesigns:
I also found this not-so-great replacement:
I decided to take the problem on myself. For all my politically conscious years, I have sought to eradicate eulogies to evil. I also care about our nation’s cultural health.
While brainstorming a new flag, I realized I needed to find something else for southerners, in this case Mississippi, to be proud about. A substitution. Pride for pride.
I found an article on Mississippi’s many contributions, including Pine Sol, soft toilet seats, and Stetson cowboy hats.
(Also, Barq’s Root Beer, the world’s largest shrimp, and selling shoes in a box by pair.)
Satisfied these were contributions to be proud of, I sketched something and commissioned an artist friend to realize the concept.
My artist asked to remain anonymous. I don’t see why. This was the result:
You’re welcome, Mississippi. I hope to see this on belt buckles, tee shirts, and race cars soon.
Seeing as only contributors received print editions of Writ in Water Issue 4, I’ve posted my story, “Blue Winter High,” in its entirety here.
Ms. Fountain parked her Camry before a cavalcade of snow, the glaze pushed by plows into mounds around faculty parking. She pulled her purse string over her shoulder, picked up her lunch bag, and nearly slipped on ice. The air was cold, the bone shiver kind. She strolled quickly over the pavement, only giving the mountains—purple beneath the sunrise—a glimpse in her periphery. She would appreciate their beauty on a warmer day.
Those early hours before school were devoted to Zero Hour, a psychological trick to add a class period. No one wanted periods one through nine. Zero through eight, however, was poetry. Fountain had to sneak soundlessly because classroom doors were open. Students reclined, their heads pointed at the ceiling, fingers playing invisible instruments. Each was engaged in a lesson, their eyes coated in degial plastic. The only movement was their hands. This was the latest trend in differentiated instruction. With pre-recorded lessons, students could pause or rewind with the twitch of a thumb. The teacher walked along the aisles, catching students when they leaned too far.
Ms. Fountain sped up in the English Hall, but it was no use. There was Mr. Tseng, standing by his door, greeting students as they sauntered by.
“Good morning,” Fountain said.
“I am fine. How are you?” Mr. Tseng replied so quickly it could have all been one word.
“Good,” Fountain said. She reached her door, opened it.
“Good, good,” Mr. Tseng repeated. His head was already scanning four boys down the hall. Possibly he was using facial recognition software to confirm their enrollment. Fountain eyed his hands anxiously. She knew he possessed the strength to rip her spine from her back.
65% of the teachers at Blue Winter High were automated. As machines emerged for nearly every task, teachers had hoped their profession was a bastion of human ingenuity. That human mentorship was necessary. Then Nagata Incorporated created an android that could teach more efficiently, if their research was to be trusted, than any person.
My contributor copies for “Blue Winter High” showed up! The stack was tied together with string and flowers made from wood shavings. Honestly, beautiful work.